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The 58th Fighter Squadron Hangar at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. has begun training with the F-35 Lightning II CTOL Variant. Since late-July Eglin AFB has received four aircraft and over the lifetime of the program a total of 59 F-35s will compose the fighter fleet at Eglin AFB.
At the rollout ceremony for the delivery of the first F-35, AF-9, U.S Air Force Commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, Col. Andrew Toth; Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President and General Manager, Larry Lawson; and Florida State Senator, Don Gaetz, all spoke in support of the program and applauded this new era in tactical aviation.As Rice said:
“Over the past 15 years, we’ve come a long way in advanced aviation technology so much that the capabilities of the F-35 would be unthinkable to the Wright Brothers. (…) We have brought to the forefront all the lessons that were learned, and our air services and allied air services will now benefit from these tremendous air capabilities.”
Eglin’s F-35s are assembled, tested and equipped for delivery at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas factory. Over the past few years, fighter pilot and maintainer training syllabus, courseware, academics and equipment were readied at the base’s first-of-its-kind Integrated Training Center (ITC), now home to state-of-the-art courseware, electronic classrooms and simulators. Here, future F-35 pilots and maintainers will learn to fly and sustain the F-35.
Toth spoke of how these new integrated facilities will enable efficiency in training.
“This is the spot where future maintainers, pilots, and leaders in the F-35 world will learn their craft with The Academic Training Center being the cornerstone of the campus, and eventually about 2,200 maintainers and 100 pilots per year will pass through our schoolhouse doors.”
As he addressed the crowd, Lawson commented on the strong partnership between the 33rd Fighter Wing and the F-35, and acknowledged the long future that lies ahead for the joint team.
“This fall, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the F-35 program, a heritage milestone that coincidentally corresponds with a new milestone — the Operational Utility Evaluation or OUE — that starts training at Eglin. I look forward to fielding the full complement of F-35s in the months and years ahead.”